Not as complex as its terminology may sound, Google SEO Penalty is  pretty straightforward. Sometimes referred to as a manual action, this penalty occurs when it detects the SEO of a website violates the rules defined by the search engine, for instance, the Webmaster Quality Guidelines. It then proceeds with sanctioning the website with a penalty.

The types of Google SEO Penalty imposed can vary depending on the severity of the violation. It is vital to take action promptly if you receive one (by any chance) by submitting a reconsideration request. Before that, you must be aware of whether your website is inclined to violate the rules. So, how do you find that out? 

How to Know if My Website has been Penalised by Google 

(source : Search Engine Land)

Google SEO Penalty often results from a major algorithm update that reshuffles the deck and disturbs the entire SERP. 

Here is where you realise that your website has been sanctioned with a penalty. 

These penalties are a culprit to website traffic drop, bringing rise to other consequences like a decrease in visibility and sales. Google SEO Penalty has the power to change the ranking of your website on the SERP in terms of your keywords and expressions. More terribly, it can even make your website disappear from rankings and be blacklisted. Let’s not get into that any further. 

Track the Changes in Your SERP Rankings

(source : Dream Host)

As mentioned earlier, a sudden drop in your SERP rankings on one or more of your primary keywords hints at a sanction. The same goes to if your website has lost all its position. 

When the quality of your website begins to deteriorate, Google SEO penalty is often the culprit, especially if you have been tweaking the algorithm lately. 

Tracking your rankings can be easy. You may opt for Ahref’s for that matter. 

Track Your Traffic 

google seo penalty

(source : Tech Donut)

Thanks to Google Analytics, you can easily track different audiences and compare them with periods of reference. Bear in mind that a significant loss in traffic should not be associated with a particular event (sales, promotions, etc) with a Google SEO penalty. 

It is also vital to ensure that this change in traffic is related to Google and not any other search engines. Take into consideration all possible errors which may jeopardise your SEO as a whole. 

Monitor Your Website Performance with Google Search Console

(source : Medium) 

Google Search Console is possibly one of the best allies for all SEO managers. Google Search Console allows you to easily identify if your website has been sanctioned a penalty. It may even clarify the reason as to why your website is penalised, for example, fake link, hacked website, hidden text, spammy behavior, and so on and so forth. 

Besides, this amazing tool also helps in pinpointing crawl errors. Let’s say if Google bot has completely skipped your website, this immediately shows that you are sanctioned. 

Check your sitemap frequently for possible indexing issues! 

10 Common Google SEO Penalty & Methods to Avoid

Now that we have gone through the pinpointing part, let’s move on to understanding some of the most common Google SEO Penalty befalling websites today. 

1) User-Generated Spam

google seo penalty

(source : Hermish)

Rather than site owners themselves trying to go against webmaster quality guidelines, this manual penalty is usually a by-product of some malicious visitors or users who spam the website either via irrelevant links or content. Websites accepting user-generated content are prone to be sanctioned by this penalty. Examples of spammy content generated by visitors or users are listed as follows : 

  • Spammed blog comment
  • Spammy accounts on free hosts
  • Spamming forums with content that appears like an advertisement
  • Auto-generated posts or profiles 

How to Avoid?

  • Turn off comments for individual posts.
  • Moderate profile and comments before they go live.
  • Integrate anti-spam tools such as captcha.
  • Use a no-follow attribute for user-generated links
  • Blacklist profiles with spamming attempts 

Once you are confident that your website is spam-free, submit a reconsideration request through Google Search Console. 

2) Spammy Hosting Service

(source :

This penalty indicates that your hosting provider is being spammed by the creation of websites whereby most of their parts have violated the webmaster quality guidelines. This is a common issue for free hosting provider services. Suppose you are utilizing a free hosting service which Google has detected to be carrying numerous spammy websites on, you will be sanctioned a Google SEO Penalty, without a thought. 

How to Avoid?

Always opt for a trusted hosting service provider to host your website. 

3) Structured Data Issue

(source : Search Engine Journal)

Your website will be penalised if a mismatch in the content served has been found, and that the structured markup has been used. Plus, if you website goes against Google’s structured data guidelines, you will be sanctioned. 

How to Avoid? 

Make sure that you follow the guidelines highlighted above and make it a habit to test the markup with a testing tool before your code changes go live.

4) Unnatural Links From Website

(source :

This Google SEO Penalty takes place when an unnatural outbound link profile is detected. Similar to the aforementioned penalty, what distinguishes this is that this deals with outgoing links whereas the former deals with links built for your own website on other domains. 

How to Avoid? 

Stay away from linking your content to irrelevant domains. Never get yourself involved with an excessive link exchange, purchasing and selling of links. 

5) Thin Content 

(source : Moz)

It is crucial to ensure that your website’s content is sufficiently valuable to your visitors and not spammy. If Google happens to detect a number of low-quality pages on your website, you will be sanctioned a penalty due to excessive thin content. Thin content are often automatically generated; affiliate pages made solely to promote affiliate links; and low-quality guest blog posts. 

How to Avoid?

Perform a periodical content audit to remove low quality and thin content from your website and start producing some good ones. 

6) Keyword Stuffing

(source : Search Engine Stream)

This occurs due to an excessive use of keywords on your website. Using too many keywords will have your website being thrown a yellow flag by Google “refs”, and penalised.

How to Avoid? 

Quit stuffing your website with keywords the way you stuff a turkey! There is no optimal amount of keywords you need to incorporate into your content, nor a limitation you need to be cautious about. One effective way to determine if your content sounds natural is to read it out loud. If it doesn’t sound like something a person will say normally, it is a sign that you have included too many keywords. 

7) Cloaking 

(source :

This is a black hat technique attempting to show search engines a different version of a website than the one that is visible to its visitors. While it can come across as a minor offence, Google deems cloaking to be intentional in manipulating its search results. Your website may even risk being banned if caught.

How to Avoid?

To get an idea of how your page is being viewed by Google bot, use the URL Inspection Tool to make sure that the content is similar to what is being viewed by human users. 

8) Hidden Text 

(source : Moz)

Search engines expect to see your content out in the open with nothing hidden. Otherwise, a Google SEO Penalty will be sanctioned.

How to Avoid? 

Do not attempt to hide your text by making your fonts the same colour as that of your background regardless of reasons. 

9) Scraped Content 

(source : SEO Hacker)

One of the most common and irrational mistakes out there is to steal content from other websites and make them your own. Scraped content includes but is not limited to plagiarising or republishing content from other websites; taking content off other sources and slightly paraphrasing them; and inserting content from other sites without providing value to users. 

How to Avoid? 

Easy! Don’t plagiarise and start producing your own original content.

10) Hacked Website

(source : Forbes)

If your website is hacked, fret not because Google is doing you a favour. Websites that are assumed to be invaded by hackers will automatically be penalised by Google. This applies to sites with malicious content added without owners’ consent. While it may not seem like it’s your fault, Google deemed you as inadequate to provide security for your website and visitors. You are thus held responsible. 

How to Avoid?

Other than removing spammy content that is brought in by the hackers, you might also need to determine the vulnerability and make sure it is well patched.

How to Recover from Google Penalty? 

It’s like healing a wound, recovering from Google Penalty isn’t as simple as you think. In the case of manual penalties like those mentioned above, you are to submit an appeal to Google in order for your website to be reindexed; or in other words, put it back to the SERP.  It is often a lengthy process considering Google doesn’t take penalties lightly. In the meantime, sit back and hope for the best.

Moving Forward

Being hit by a Google SEO Penalty is one thing website owners do not wish to be befallen as it degrades the quality of your website and leaves a huge impact on your organic traffic. Long story short, it is extremely important to ensure that your website aligns with the webmaster quality guidelines. Even if you happen to be sanctioned, don’t panic. Instead, troubleshoot the problem and submit a reconsideration request to Google via the search console. All the best!

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